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Mission Mill Museum

Located three blocks from the State Capitol, in the heart of Salem, Mission Mill Museum is part of Salem’s past. Visitors to the 4 1/2 acre site will step back into the early days of Salem and experience the diverse architecture, industry and lifestyles of the pioneer settlers and the restored Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, an important part of the community since 1889. The red brick building has been a familiar sight in Salem since 1896, when English emigrant Thomas L. Kay built it to replace the 1889 wooden structure that had been destroyed by fire.

The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill produced fine wool blankets and fabrics for seventy years and was managed by four generations of the Kay family. In years past, the Mill transformed raw Willamette Valley wool into fabric and blankets which were well known throughout the West. This is the only woolen mill museum west of Missouri. The sound of the old water-powered turbine still echoes on the grounds today, as it continues to provide power. Driven by water power from the Salem millrace, the Samson Leffel turbine and a system of pulleys and drive shafts operated all the Mill machinery until the early 1940s. The turbine still generates electricity for the site.

While the Mill provides an opportunity to explore turn-of-the-century industrial technology, the historic houses of the Methodist Mission help to interpret missionary family life of an earlier period. In the early 1840s Jason Lee and the members of his community were instrumental in developing the industry, government and educational facilities that became the core of the Oregon Territory.  

At any time of the year, a visit to Mission Mill Museum provides a collection of sights, sounds and activities. The old-fashioned herb garden, perennials and a rose garden remind us of the daily lives of the Oregon pioneers. At night the grounds are lighted by historic City of Salem street lamps.

Researched and written by Paul Porter and Susan Gibby

Additional Links
Mission Mill and Mill Creek
Thomas Kay Woolen Mill (Mission Mill) and Mill Creek.
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Woolen Mill workers
Woolen Mill workers.
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Mission Mill
Early Photograph of Mission Mill
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Mill Loom
Mill Loom
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